Holbrook urges St Helens to seize the moment and cause a shock against Castleford

In the dark depths of May, Justin Holbrook was handed the reigns of S Helens.

The club he took over was in disarray. Two trophyless seasons and an uninspiring start to 2017 had cost club legend, Keiron Cunningham, his job.

There was a toxic sense of apathy lingering around the club, with former players and fans alike claiming the club had lost its winning culture.

But in just four months, this unproven Australian coach has left St Helens on the cusp of returning to the pinnacle of the Super League mountain.

Eleven wins in 17 games have seen Holbrook take the Saints from being fearful bottom four to Grand Final hopefuls.

It’s been quite the transformation, but Holbrook insists a change in attitude among the club’s players has been the key to their success.

“The players had a choice,” he said.

“They could change the way they were doing things and hope to get better or carry on the way there were doing and end the season miserably. I can’t fault them at all, they’ve been fantastic. I can only guide them, it’s up to them to buy into it.

“We’re at a proud club with a great history and we want to carry that on, The players heard all those comments and felt the pressure of that earlier this year. But it’s up to us to do something about it and to get people’s opinions of us to change, as they are doing currently.

“We’ve worked really hard to get here in the four and we don’t want to finish here.”

To ensure their seasons extends a further week, they will have to overcome one of the most difficult tasks in the game this year.

St Helens’ semi-final opponents are Castleford, the runaway leaders of the Super League in the regular season and the red-hot favourites to secure the Grand Final crown.

But Holbrook’s men did defeat Castleford in the Super 8s, one of only three teams to do so this year.

Holbrook was quick to pay his respects to Daryl Powell’s side, but admitted he had no objections to spoiling the party.

“We want to continue on to Old Trafford the week after and win there. It’s a really tough game but one we’re looking forward to.

“They’ve had a great year and I respect them for that. But now it’s down to the final four and we deserve to be here as much as anyone. They’ve had a phenomenal year, but in saying that I’m expecting and hoping we win on Thursday.”

You can hear an extended, in-depth interview with Holbrook ahead of tonight’s game in our League Express Podcast. Just click below to listen.